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U.S. drops unarmed bombs in reef

CANBERRA, Australia -- Two U.S. fighter jets dropped four unarmed bombs into Great Barrier Reef Marine Park last week when a training exercise went wrong, the U.S. Navy said, angering environmentalists.

AV-8B Harrier jets, launched from the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard, each jettisoned an inert practice bomb and an unarmed laser-guided explosive bomb Tuesday into the World Heritage-listed marine park off the coast of Queensland state, the U.S. 7th Fleet said Saturday.

The Great Barrier Reef, the world's largest network of coral structures, stretches more than 1,800 miles along Australia's northeast coast.

Cmdr. William Marks, 7th Fleet spokesman, said Australian officials were consulted. "There is minimal environmental impact," he told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio. Four bombs, weighing a total of 2,000 pounds, were dropped in an area to minimize possible damage to the reef, he said. None exploded. -- AP

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